NEW YORK, NY, October
14, 2003: According to documents leaked to the Sierra Club
on Friday, October 10, 2003 the Bush Administration's Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to a consent agreement that proposes
to give all Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) amnesty from Clean
Air Act violations in exchange for a mere $500 fine and a $2,500
fee to finance an air quality monitoring program controlled by the
This proposal, which confirms what has been suspected by environmental
groups for several months, is environmentally irresponsible and
politically reckless. Factory farms would be allowed to buy their
immunity at a bargain price and continue polluting the air of surrounding
rural communities with impunity for an indefinite period of time
while their activities are monitored by "third parties"
paid by the AFOs. What is worse is that the agreement took place
behind closed doors with virtually no public debate. At the very
least, citizens deserve full disclosure of the plan, especially
given that they will bear most of its consequences. Yet, the EPA
has not publicly disclosed any information to this date. While the
EPA should be hard at work protecting the environment, it appears
to be increasingly eager to protect the interests of corporate polluters
with an appalling disregard for environmental and health consequences.
"This deal gives factory farm operators a license to pollute
and continue shifting pollution costs to the residents that live
nearby without fear of being sued under the Clean Air Act. With
this agreement the Environmental Protection Agency has completed
its transition to the Environmental Pollution Agency," says
Dr. William J. Weida, Director of the GRACE Factory Farm Project.
GRACE objects to the following features of this unconscionable
1. Polluters control the monitoring program. AFOs
would contribute $2,500 to a monitoring fund controlled by the polluters
themselves. This is a ludicrous sum as it would not even buy decent
monitoring equipment, let alone pay for the cost and time to implement
the program adequately. AFOs would propose where the monitoring
takes place and who the "independent third parties" to
perform the monitoring will be. Given that the polluters are the
paymasters, it is hard to see how these third parties can remain
2. National Academy of Sciences pronounces pollution measurement
methods inadequate. The agreement relies on "Emissions-Estimating
Methodologies" developed by the EPA based on data from the
nationwide emissions monitoring program to estimate the total annual
emissions from individual AFOs. However, a recent National Academy
of Sciences study has found that this method of calculating air
emissions will not work and that any acceptable method must be based
on the unique climate and terrain of each AFO.
3. The agreement offers legal "bribes."
To all intents and purposes, AFOs would be able to buy their exemption
from Clean Air lawsuits for a small fee. The proposed fine of $500
is much lower than the current $27,000 per diem under Clean Air
Act and CERCLA and doesn't even begin to match the monetary losses
in property value and health costs experienced by neighbors of factory
4. There is no expiration date to the license to pollute.
The agreement lacks an expiration date: the "covenant not to
sue" lasts until the end of the monitoring program, but no
specific end date is set for emission estimates. This would potentially
allow factory farms to pollute indefinitely.
5. Federal funding would be extended to violators of Clean
Air Act. A facility that violates the Clean Air Act would
still be allowed to obtain federal funding, which is now prohibited
where there are previous violations or discharges.
6. Any enforcement actions would be based on bad data.
Since "the annual emissions from a particular facility...will
be determined based on...an assumption that the number of animals
housed at the facility is the maximum number of animals housed at
the facility," any AFO operator can influence the results of
an odor survey by simply reducing the number of animals at the facility
prior to the survey and then increasing the number after the survey
7. The deal is extended to all AFOs. By extending
this deal from large Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)
to animal feeding operations of all sizes (AFOs), this deal allows
an even greater number of facilities to obtain exemption from air